Keys to winning
As predicted, it was a battle of the goaltenders. The Predators’ Michael Polston stopped 37 of 39 shots while Spud Kings goalie Tucker Inabinet went 31 for 32. It was a 1-0 game, aside from the quick goals that the teams traded late in the third period.
Perhaps the most noticeable improvement the Spud Kings made Friday night was their discipline. Rather than getting into scrums after every whistle and over-reacting to small infractions, they kept their cool and stayed out of the penalty box.
“We’re trying to change our identity to be a team that’s working hard; that’s hard to play against,” said John Becanic, the Spud Kings’ new head coach.
Of course, in true Spud Kings fashion, the animals broke out of the cage as soon as the final horn sounded. Pushing and shoving turned into punches and face washes before the linesmen got in there to break it up.
The Spud Kings completed a number of transactions this week. Matteo Mitrovic, who was named as one of the Mountain Division’s players of the month in January, went to the Utah Outliers. According to a team source, he was unhappy with his role on the team and wanted somewhere to spread his wings a little more in his last season of NCDC eligibility.
Timothy Kim also moved on, as the Spud Kings traded him to the Predators. In return, the Spud Kings received forward Kasey Russell and defenseman Cannon Lentz, in addition to a second-round pick in the NCDC Draft. Russell and Lentz both debuted Friday against their former team, but Kim did not play.
Swiss defenseman Tiziano Pauchard signed with the Spud Kings and will likely replace Mitrovic on special teams and in key defensive situations. Pauchard, who played for the Kenai River Brown Bears of the NAHL before coming to Idaho Falls, has represented Switzerland in a number of international tournaments, including the 2021 World Junior Championship.
“We’re trying to find the right group that can get better every day,” Becanic said. “We want to have an identity of being together.”
Becanic insists that his team still has work to do, specifically noting turnovers as his focal point.
He will have the chance to work on that Saturday night as the Spud Kings and Predators face off at 7:05 p.m. in Idaho Falls. Tickets are available online and at the Mountain America Center box office. The game can also be streamed on FloHockey.TV with a subscription.